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Forbes got a chance to drive Nissan's Leaf e+ prototype that uses a dual-motor 4-wheel drive system that delivers 308 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque.

Based on the author's experience in the car he predicts that the powetrain is actually going to be used in the Ariya instead of the Leaf.

Last month at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan unveiled its next-generation battery electric SUV called the ‘Ariya.’ At first glance, this EV crossover seemed like a regular edgy concept vehicle that you find at motor shows these days. But a few days later, I realized that what I was test driving in Yokohama appeared in no small way to be a prototype for that very car.

If you put two and two together, then you get four. Or at least if you put the technology I tested that day in the ‘Leaf e+ prototype’ together with the fact that Nissan only give new names to cars they plan to actually launch, then that adds up to the advanced technology found in the Ariya concept car.

So what do we have here? Based on the current model Leaf e+ that employs one electric motor powering the front wheels, the prototype gets an extra motor propelling the rears. So with a totally new 4WD system, packing two high-powered motors and reworked rear suspension, the futuristic prototype generates 308 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque. That translates to nearly double the 147hp that the current Leaf e+ produces. It means that the 0-60mph time just dropped from a sub 7 second result to the low 5’s.

The new 4WD powertrain also allows for torque vectoring that distributes power to the wheel or wheels which need it the most. The addition of an extra regenerative brake motor also permits more powerful independent braking at each wheel. After first taking the current Leaf e+ for a spin, I was invited to take the prototype down the same stretch of road at the same speed—50mph.

Of course we cannot forget that the current Leaf employs Nissan’s signature ‘e-pedal,’ a throttle pedal that allows you to accelerate and also brake, using regenerative power, when you lift off.

So with that in mind, I tested the current Leaf e+ and the prototype back to back. Flattening the throttle, I was impressed by the prototype’s added punch off the line, but more enamored by the car’s reduced pitch and dive when I lifted off the ‘gas’ so to speak. The additional rear regen motor and clever front-rear calibration now means that there is less aggressive dive when you lift off the throttle and decelerate. The new system keeps that car flatter and smoother, reducing forward neck and torso movement significantly, especially for rear seat passengers, thus achieving a more comfortable ride and lowering the incidence of car sickness.

Then I was asked to check out the new torque vectoring setup on both cars around a 30mph corner that had been purposefully sprayed with water to reduce grip. The standard Leaf e+ understeered noticeably at that speed where as the prototype, using its new 4WD powertrain and torque vectoring that automatically applies just the right amount of brake pressure to the inner wheels, allows the car to corner neutrally, holding your chosen line through the bend and with no understeer.

So, given that we will see this technology appear on a Nissan EV within the next few years and given that the Ariya concept car, or a version of it, is expected to land in showrooms in the next few years, I feel I can safely say that the Leaf e+ prototype I tested was, indeed, the new Ariya.

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